An opportunity missed
LEAF FROM HISTORY
ABDUL MAJID ZARGAR WRITES ON NEHRU-BOGRA AGREEMENT AND THE EFFECT IT HAD ON THE COURSE OF KASHMIR HISTORY
It all started with keen interest evinced by America in 1953 to settle Kashmir issue once for all. To help facilitate the talks between two Countries they wanted some one who would be sufficiently prominent and politically mature to convey India and Pakistan that though his mission was informal but it had America’s full blessings and support.
Accordingly Paul Hoffman, a successful republican businessman was chosen for the job. He had won international acclaim as the head of the Ford Foundation with remarkable success in India and Pakistan which was expected to ensure his impartiality in both the countries.
After his arrival in New-Delhi in the month of April 1953, Hoffman met Prime Minster Nehru and had detailed parleys with other leaders of consequence. After protracted discussions with Prime Minister Nehru, three clear options emerged for settling Kashmir issue . These included a full plebiscite applicable to whole State of J&K, a limited plebiscite applicable to Kashmir Valley and a joint India-Pakistan control of the valley.
Although Nehru did not commit himself to any particular solution, yet he was confident that a satisfactory solution acceptable to both countries could be found. He also conveyed his willingness to meet Prime Minister of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Bogra and authorized Hoffman to pass this word to him. In a way Hoffman had become an unofficial mediator as well as an ambassador of two conjoined twins separated just six years ago.
Hoffman’s parleys with Bogra in Karachi immediately thereafter went well. Bogra assured him of full support and coperation in his endeavors. He was determined in meeting Indian PM at any place of his choosing. Nehru insisted that they should first meet informally in London in June 1953 on the occasion of Commonwealth Prime Ministers Conference, paving the way for a summit meeting in India or Pakistan at a later date.
Consequent to these back channel diplomacy, Nehru and Bogra held talks in New-Delhi in July-August 1953. The talks produced amazing success. Both agreed that the Kashmir dispute should be settled in accordance with the wishes of the people of the State, to be ascertained by a statewide “fair and impartial” plebiscite conducted by an independent administrator who would be appointed by the end of April 1954. Following four points characterize the sum and substance of the agreement.
1. It is the unanimous opinion of both leaders that Kashmir dispute should be settled in accordance with the wishes of Kashmiris by a fair and impartial plebiscite.
2. The plebiscite administrator should be appointed by the end of April 1954.
3. The preliminary issues that had so far held up progress towards a plebiscite should be decided and actions in implementation thereof should be taken, and with this object in view, committees of military and other experts should be appointed to advise the two Prime Ministers.
4. Progress could only be made in this direction if there was an atmosphere of peace and cooperation between the two countries.
A proviso was added in the agreement which stated that the settlement of issue should cause “the least disturbance to the life of the people of the state”. This proviso was widely interpreted to mean that those areas which favored Indian rule(By implication meaning Jammu and Ladakh) would join the Indian Union while those favoring Pakistan (implying Kashmir valley and its adjoining Muslim populated areas) would join Pakistan.
As far as Kashmir is concerned, this was the maximum concession extended by India to Pakistan. It produced widespread resentment in India. Nehru was accused of reversing the India’s known position on Kashmir. Same was the case in Pakistan. Bogra’s Ministers in his own cabinet revolted against the agreement by labeling it as too little. He quickly reiterated the substantial portions favorable to Pakistan. This included withdrawal of Indian troops from Kashmir and installation of a nonpartisan administration during the plebiscite period. Nevertheless the damage had been done to his image.
By then another painful event relating to Kashmir was generating itself to further overshadow and deteriorate the relations between the two neighbors. Democratic leader and Illinois Governor, Stevenson, who had just lost presidential elections, was in India on a private visit. In Kashmir he was Sheikh Abdullah’s Guest which was not liked by New-Delhi. Miffed at the parleys between Abdullah and Stevenson in which the former casually suggested an independent status for Kashmir and also exclusion of Indian leaders at the Luncheon hosted by Abdullah in honor of the visiting dignitary, a conspiracy was hatched against Abdullah which culminated in his arrest on 9th August 1953. Kashmir was on boil. The news was also not well received in Pakistan where Abdullah till his arrest was thought as Indian stooge.
The Delhi meeting was followed by an exchange of letters between the two Prime Ministers. It is said that 27 letters and telegrams were exchanged between August 10, 1953, and September 21, 1954. However, in May 1954, the news of American military aid to Pakistan was published, which gave Pandit Nehru an excuse to go back on his commitments to hold a free vote in Kashmir. Bogra pointed out the strength of India, and the fact that India was spending three times as much as Pakistan on its armed forces. He warned that a war might engulf the entire Sub-continent. But Nehru's objections to military aid to Pakistan dominated the correspondence and ultimately nullified the agreement with Bogra, which had started with great hope.
Both the countries missed yet another opportunity to settle Kashmir issue through Dialogue.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant and can be contacted for feed back at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 6 Jul 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 6 Jul 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 7 Jul 2010 00:00:00 IST
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